The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

This was a birthday gift, and I saved it for holiday reading, which turned out to be a good idea – once I got hooked I couldn’t stop and I’m not sure I would have got a lot of anything done if I’d started them in my normal life. This is a collection of 5 kids books, in one edition – the books are definitely kids books, not ‘crossover’ fiction in the way that Philip Pullman’s wonderful ‘His Dark Materials’ books are.

They start off with a touch of the Famous Five about them, but then get much, much deeper, and darker at times too. I really loved the great English legends running through them – King Arthur and Merlin – I would have loved these books as a kid. I do now, but I can imagine how I would have lost myself in them then. They feel like walks on a wet and windy beach followed by mugs of hot tea and toast with butter in front of a roaring fire.

The movie of the second book is coming out soon, but by all accounts the story’s been mashed to pieces, with the main character turning from an eleven year old English boy to a fourteen year old American, among many other things. It’s so unnecessary – his age is important, as it makes the task he has to face that wee bit bigger, and making him American will take away from the Englishness of the books, which I find a real shame. It also suggests that the makers didn’t feel that American audiences would have any interest in an English lead, which I find a bit, well, weird. So, despite the film starring Ian McShane (Lovejoy!) and Christopher Eccleston, I’ll be avoiding it. If you’re going, get your kids to read the book first!

6 thoughts on “The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

  1. I loved those books. I read them as a teenager. I heard a movie adaptation was coming out, but I didn’t know about those changes! That’s outrageous. The books are set in Britain, with a background and backstory of one of Britain’s best known cultural and historical legends. Will’s Englishness is important! But there’s no point in me ranting here.

    I will say I read it as an American teenager who’d never left California, and I managed to understand and enjoy the story, dammit. I think the movie bigwigs underestimate people, sometimes.

  2. Ooooh I read ‘The Dark Is Rising’ when I had just turned 13. I got it as a present when I was in hospital with a ruptured appendix. It really frightened me. So much so, I never read it again. The bit where death or… that guy… takes the golden hair off the boy’s sister’s clothes, and the boy suddenly realises what’s going to happen? Chilling. Twelve years later and it still gives me a shiver.

    I must have a look at the collection, I’d probably really enjoy them now that I have a house alarm, double locks and a bigger teddy :D

  3. I read that series as a kid – it’s one of the few kids series that I can actually say I did read (I seemed to have missed most of them until I was an adult). And I loved it! There were only 4 books at the time so I don’t think I have ever read the 5th one which is something I should look into. And you are right – his age and Englishness IS very important and I was terribly disappointed when I saw the preview. You would think with the success of Harry Potter and The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe the makers would realize that not everything needs to be American!

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